Coming just one week after the Japanese Grand Prix, the Korean Grand Prix this weekend forms the second leg of a Far East double header. The third edition of the event will be held at the 5.615km Korean International Circuit situated on the edge of the Yellow Sea to the south-west of South Korea in the South Jeolla province, approximately 400km from Seoul.
The circuit was designed by Hermann Tilke and is part permanent road course, part street circuit, although the city that will use the streets is yet to be built! The circuit is a typical modern style track, with long straights and tight corners coupled with large run off areas, but it remains challenging for drivers and teams. The circuit is slippery and weather conditions are notoriously changeable, which when combined, often produce spectacular racing.
The Korean track is another circuit of two halves; the first part featuring straights that place an emphasis on good top end power and acceleration, and the second part more flowing, with a sequence of corners that interconnect without any real straight. This combination of straights and corners puts Korea in the middle of the power-driveability ratio and mid-table for power sensitivity, similar to the Nürburgring and Malaysia.
There are three straights on the Korean track, although the longest is not the pit straight. That honour instead goes to the straight between turns two and three, which is 1,150m. Over this stretch the engine will be working at full throttle for approximately 15s. The start-finish line is approximately 700m while the burst between turns three and four is 560m. Over eighty percent of sector one is thus taken at full throttle.
With such an emphasis placed on top speed and acceleration, getting correct gear ratio selection is a labour of love, particularly for seventh gear. Get it wrong and you will either be at the limiter for too long and compromise acceleration, or potentially a sitting duck as the other cars sail past. The choice of ratios is complicated by the changeable weather conditions caused by the circuit’s proximity to the sea and low altitude, with wind direction often varying from day to day.
It is feasible for drivers to take the complex from turns six to nine at full throttle, meaning a further 700m flat out. Weather conditions, car set-up and grip levels will greatly affect this possibility, however, and potentially compromise traction through the slower corners through the remainder of the circuit.
From turn nine onwards the circuit is a combination of second, third and fourth gear corners taken at an average of 215kph. The point-squirt nature of this section means that fuel consumption is very high over one lap.